El Salvador, the most densely-populated state on the mainland of the Americas, is a small and highly-industrialised country.
In the 1980s, El Salvador was ravaged by a bitter civil war stoked by gross inequality between the overwhelming majority of the population and a small and wealthy elite that left around 70,000 people dead.
A United Nations-brokered peace agreement ended the civil war in 1992, ushering in important political reforms, but the country still suffers from the legacy of a divided society.
Violent "mara" street gangs have left El Salvador with one of the world's highest murder rates.
President: Nayib Bukele
A youthful political independent, Mr Bukele won the 2019 presidential election on a pledge to create a "new era" for El Salvador.
During his five-year-term he has vowed to take on gang violence and corruption, and foster better relations with the United States.
His predecessor, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, had conducted a left-wing foreign policy and established diplomatic relations with China.
Press freedom is guaranteed under the constitution and there is a lively media scene.
The broadcast media are privately owned and in the hands of a small group of business interests.
Some key dates in the history of El Salvador:
1540 - El Salvador becomes a Spanish colony after indigenous resistance is crushed.
1821 - Independence from Spain.
1823 - 1840 - El Salvador forms part of the short-lived United Provinces of Central America, which also includes Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
1859-63 - President Gerardo Barrios introduces coffee growing.
1932 - Some 30,000 people are killed during the suppression of a peasant uprising led by Agustine Farabundo Marti.
1969 - Football War with Honduras; 4,000 die in 100-hour conflict.
1979 - 1992 - Civil war. Between 1979 and 1981 around 30,000 people are killed by army-backed right-wing death squads.
2009 - Former FMLN rebel movement emerges as largest party in parliamentary elections and shortly afterwards former rebel Mauricio Funes wins presidential elections.
2012 - A year-long truce between street gangs. It reputedly saves the lives of thousands but violence rises again in subsequent years.